You know that feeling when you have a plan, and then something distracts you and all of a sudden it's six months later before you realize that you completely fell off course? That's sort of how this summer has felt.
Back in December, when Habit Farming was new and exciting and full of possibilities, I had a year-long plan to roll out new resources, tips, tricks, and even a small in-person business planning conference. Then, as we all know, the 2020 season kicked our collective butts and all plans for anything outside of keeping the farm running went right out the window. In addition to feeling wiped out for most of the summer, this has also been an incredibly emotional year. I'm not sure if it's the pregnancy hormones (I'm 8 months pregnant at the moment), or the Instagram trolls (of course they came out of the woodwork this year), or the nightmarish state of the world, but I've nearly called it quits more than a handful of times since April. I'm not sure about you, but I feel like I no longer understand how to operate in the world, I'm questioning everything I thought was a certainty, and I'm deeply concerned about the future. The only thing that has kept me going, and the reason I'm back on here today, is the plan Jake and I made for the farm during last winter's Hippo Camp.
If you were following along last year you may remember that Hippo Camp is our annual two person business planning retreat. We rent an Airbnb, bring all of our important paperwork and the season's records, and we follow a step by step review of the season and use it to make a plan for the coming year. This focused, intentional time helps cut through the noise of what we feel like we "should" do with the farm, and helps us define what we need or want to do, based on our own values and philosophies. After this year's planning process we determined that in order to meet our personal goals of more sanity, less working hours, and getting ready for a baby, we needed to hit a financial goal of around $200,000 gross income. That number is huge for us, but it came out of very real discussions of increased labor needed (so we could work less), investments to make (better tools meant working less), and the desire to bring one of our employees on as a manager (to replace me in the field once I wasn't able to do as much of the physical work), which meant a raise and increased hours year-round. In order to meet that financial goal we knew we had to hit other goals such as CSA membership numbers, increasing production efficiencies, etc. As April hit and markets closed, these goals drove us to pivot (don't you hate that word by now?) early, increasing CSA membership by double, pulling out of our farmers market, and opening an online store. We also hired additional staff to accommodate new CSA packaging needs, applied for grants to help with the increased costs, and hit our $200,000 goal in mid September. Of course, due to seriously increased costs this season, that $200,000 isn't going to net us as much as we thought, but those goals helped us make moves early on and gave us direction when we needed it most.
I'm not sure what next year is going to look like. I'm not sure what next week is going to look like. Heck, because of covid exposures, lately we aren't even really sure who's going to show up to work each day. What I do know is that we are going to take the lessons learned this season, we're going to hole up at some point this winter (maybe not at an Airbnb, but we'll hire a farm sitter so that we can stay-cation and not worry about farm chores), we're going to set goals and intentions for 2021, and we're going to keep plugging along despite the world outside our fields. I also know that this process helped give me direction through a whole lot of anxiety, it pulled me out of what could have been a much longer and more worrisome spout of depression, and even though I'd probably rather curl up under a blanket for the next six months, I'm feeling like sharing the process, and working through it with you, is more important now than ever.
Going forward I'm excited to announce that I'm working on turning the previously planned Hippo Camp conference into several pre-recorded videos that will be released later this winter. This is in collaboration with friends at Johnny's Selected Seeds, and should help walk you through the review and plan process with time for live discussion and Q&A when the videos are released. I'm super excited about it and grateful to Johnny's for encouraging me to get back on the proverbial horse. We'll give you more details as they arrive. If you just can't wait to get started, most of the steps are still on the blog, and feel free to ask any questions either in the comments or by email. I'll do my best to get back to you as soon as possible!
Sending you all as much love and encouragement that I can squeeze into a blog post.
Taylor Mendell. I grow things for people to eat.